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I came across these two instances in the New Testament when Jesus told someone to “sin no more”.

John 13-15 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him.

The second instance is in the account of the woman taken in the act of adultery.

John 10-11 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

Since sinlessness is impossible due to our fallen nature what exactly Jesus meant by saying this?

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It might be interesting to re-imagine these events as a parent talking to their young child who has done something wrong: "Now, now, no more of that. Be a good boy" We say it, we know it has limited application, but we have to say it, don't we? –  Chelonian Jul 9 '13 at 16:33
    
This could have been another good answer as you have made a good and significant point. –  Seek forgiveness Jul 10 '13 at 4:05
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I think all it meant was to try and not sin again. –  Aeron Jul 10 '13 at 19:19
    
Aeron, that is actually correct. The problems these people faced were because of their sin. I the case of the woman it was her adultery. Adultery is not a good thing and is a sin. She was nearly stoned to death. Jesus gave her good advice. Even after Jesus died for sinful men and women, that's good advice because that sin can still destroy you physically. –  Matt Nov 5 '13 at 0:22

12 Answers 12

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When you look at Jesus' command in light of the whole law, and other instances where He said similar things (such as "be ye as perfect as your father in heaven"), you realize that while this is a command, it's really just a repetition of all the previous commands given by God over thousands of years. Jesus' command is just a reaffirmation of what God has been commanding us since the beginning of time - or at least of the law.

In a sense, it appears that God is commanding the impossible. And one wonders why he would do that. What does he expect to get from all this commanding. Well, the truth is that the Law, while good, was never intended to be a guide for how to live one's life. It's purpose is to convict of sin, "that the whole world might become guilty before him". Why would he do this? Because the Law of God is not a guide for living life. it is not a list of things that you MUST do, it is a list of things that you do NOT do, and in not doing them you have become guilty before God. The purpose of the Law, again, is not lifestyle guide, but schoolmaster - leading man to the cross of Christ.

Because the plan of salvation depends on the works of Jesus Christ, not man. Man cannot even contribute to this work, for, "if you will build me an alter, you shall do it with uncarved stone (untouched by man), for in the moment that you lift up your tool upon my altar, you have polluted it."

This plan of salvation makes it possible for men to come to God through Christ, but the condition is that you must first be found guilty, in order to take advantage of the court's mercy (Christ).

Jesus' command to "go and sin no more" is simply a reaffirmation that "God is Holy, and Man is Sinful,... flee the wrath to come". That once you trust Him for salvation, you will always, and must always continue to trust Him and His work done on your behalf, not in your own works.

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Welcome to C.SE! –  Affable Geek Jul 9 '13 at 17:51
    
Though there are many other good answers with varied, valid, pertinent points in each of them, this a most comprehensive answer. Let me welcome you to CSE and thanks for the post. To have so many answers with equally convincing viewpoints speaks volume of this site. –  Seek forgiveness Jul 10 '13 at 4:23

To say that all have failed is not yet the same as saying that all will ever remain failing.

Attaining a state of integrity where no more doing evil or injustice to anyone is in one's way, this is what we humans are called for. Our former transgressions and wrongdoings we can not reverse or blot out. God can and he will and he does.

The Lutheran/Calvinist reading of Paul is misleading as they themselves were certainly mistaken in their understanding of Christ.

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This interesting tangential point you raise about Luther/Calvin deserves its own Q&A-format question. –  pterandon Jul 9 '13 at 11:43

"Sin no more" is a request or will of Jesus Christ that we should repent from our sins.

Matthew 4:17 (NIV) From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

To follow Jesus Christ, we need to first repent from our sinful acts. Jesus requested the adulterous woman in John 10-11 to stop her adulterous acts. By saying "sin no more", Jesus wanted her to repent and start a new life. She was about to be stoned to death but Jesus rescued her with his divine wisdom. In return to this, Jesus requested her not to do the same sinful act again.

There are grievous sins from which we need to repent after receiving forgiveness from Jesus Christ. We must not do the same sinful things again and grieves Jesus. Going back to sinful life is the same as crucifying Jesus all over again.

Hebrews 6:4-6 (NIV) It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

We are not perfect. We may make mistakes and sin again, thereby grieving Jesus again. But our God is the God of Love, who is ever ready do forgive our sins if we ask for forgiveness.

Psalm 136:1 (NIV) Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.

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Nice first sentence. –  Seek forgiveness Jul 11 '13 at 3:41

At a very simple level, even asking this question is presuming that everything Jesus said must be taken to its logical extreme.

Imagine, your doctor says, "Cut the beef out of your diet!" What he is saying is both clear (eat less red meat) and fully "doable." And yet, if you're at a wedding where the only entree is steak, do you think the doctor would never see you again if you partook?

Indeed, what the doctor is saying is what Jesus is saying: This is hurting you. It is not good for you. Endeavor to reduce it! If you fall off the wagon, even the attempt to reduce the behavior in question will benefit you.

The notion of perfection- telos-(as in Matt 5 when Jesus says "Be ye perfect even as I am perfect") does not demand a state but rather a direction. It is pointed to an end- in this case being like Christ- but it does not demand that all fullness be achieved.

After all, if the sick were no longer sick, they would have no need of the Physician.

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This too is a good answer with a clear explanation. –  Seek forgiveness Jul 10 '13 at 4:25

In a literalist view of the bible, "Stop sinning or something worse will happen to you," is true on every level. Jesus commands him to stop sinning. If he doesn't, something worse (hell is on the list) will happen to him.

This puts a tension into the man's choices. He cannot find his own righteousness. He must seek righteousness outside himself. This is merely the call to conversion.

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In simple terms he means "try" ... he knows we cannot be perfect, but we can try to be perfect. We always have room for improvement. He paid the ultimate price (the atonement) so that through repentance we can be with him again. If we never try to be perfect, we'll never even come close to it.

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Welcome to C.SE, and I encourage you to see how we are different from other sites. This is a good answer, but it could benefit from more support or links to doctrine. –  Affable Geek Jul 9 '13 at 14:43
    
Thanks for the comment. I'll take a look at the links you suggest. EDIT: –  Paulster2 Jul 10 '13 at 10:56
    
@Affable Geek - After looking at the link you provided, I see my post was not keeping with the tenants of the SE site. Thanks for the clue ... :-) –  Paulster2 Jul 10 '13 at 11:04

Firstly, remember that this is the same Christ who commanded radical, never-ending forgiveness:

21 Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. (Matthew 18:21)

We can't strip out any one line of scripture and interpret it in isolation. God demands two seemingly opposing extremes. Perfect Sinlessness and Perfect Mercy.

So, I defer to the Catholic priests [and prominent Catholic speakers] who provide a relevant answer to a similar question:

Is my confession really valid if I know I'll just sin again?

The answer, in brief, is that a healthy relationship with God ultimately requires sinlessness. And Christ commands absolute sinlessness, but He does not forcaste it!

So, the realistic human response is to sincerely strive for perfection with the hope of success, but never to despair in falling.

See:

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I suggest that, when reading Jesus' words, we must consider how the people to whom they were actually addressed would have understood them. In the case of the woman who had been caught in adultery, would she have been expected to understand His admonition in terms of a complex theology? "Go and sin no more" taken with wooden-headed literalness, implies "Never do another sinful thing in your life". But the saner meaning, in that context? Jesus had just prevented a crowd of people from killing her for something. And He's advising her not to do it again. "Go" (ie depart freely, having not been stoned) "and sin no more" (do not continue the adulterous relationship).

On another level it can be taken as an allegory of the Christian life in general - we are all deserving of death for sin, but Jesus intervenes to prevent that happening, not so we can continue to sin, but so we can change for the better. Just like He healed sick people, rather than simply killing them. But we mustn't let the "spiritual" meaning over-ride the literal one.

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I generally agree with the other answers, but I'd wish to add one more thing.

Jesus said "don't sin", as it should also be referred to (all citations KJV)

But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil. (Matthew 5, 37)

and

I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. (Rev. 3, 15-16)

He couldn't say "please try avoid any sinning, if possible, of course, that would be very kind, if you'd manage, will you?". He says: "don't do it". There is no other alternative, you do sin or you do not. Of course, from later teachings we know, that everybody does and everybody fails. But if you fail, it is not the end. If you are sorry, you will hear "sin no more again". If He'd said "try not to sin" that anybody could say "oh, I tried, but I failed trying".

But you should not fail trying, you should fail not to sinning. Trying is easy. Sinning is the problem, not trying.

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Not too sure about "striving" to be without sin, in the sense that perfection is self-atchieved, while Christ only provides the "down payment" or the one time bail. This brings us to another related subject namely "grace vs works". And should I go on sinning because grace is abundant? God will judge us according to our intentions and hearts' desires. Then one day we (all) will be transformed to His likeness and wear His perfection in order to be MADE worthy of an eternal presence with the perfect and Holy God.

Our practices will have to include, confessing our sins in humility, while urging our hearts to grow hostile to sin and loving to God and to God's creation and purpose. Thus we allow God to change us, making us worthy of His Eternal Kingdom.

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Welcome to C.SE. When you get the chance, please check out our tour and specifically How we are different than other sites. This is a good answer, but would benefit from sourcing. –  Affable Geek Oct 15 '13 at 0:53

do not be the generation of them that are wise in their own eyes. You do not want to prove that you know better than God, do you? I'm sure you do not want to go there. Exodus 32:33 says "Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book ." The Word of God can NEVER be changed, " The Lord perfectly knew what He was saying, I MEAN HOW COULD YOU EVER DOUBT THAT!!!! " Proverbs 11:23 says "Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished" so if you really want to go to heaven, throw away that satanic ideology because sin CAN NEVER enter there. "If you cling to sin till death, When you draw your latest breath, You will sink in dark despair To the regions of the lost, Thus to prove at awful cost, Sin can never enter there."- Charles W. Naylor. 1 John 3:9 says "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." From Genesis to Revelation the Lord rejects sin, i pray you will not be found to be an enemy of God. In Hebrews 9, the Bible says "13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: 14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 25 Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; 26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation." Note the BIBLE clearly states that He has come(appeared) to PUT AWAY SIN by the sacrifice of Himself. Surely the blood of the second Personality in the Trinity is potent enough to set you free from sin and should not (i mean NEVER) be compared to the blood or bulls and calves which were "a shadow of things to come".

MY CONCLUSION (More like the BIBLE'S CONCLUSION): It sure is possible to live without sin. How? Repent of your sins, be sorry for commiting them, totally turn away from all sin and ask Jesus Christ to forgive, cleanse, make you a new creature and a sheep in His fold. Ask Him to come into your heart, to be your LORD and Saviour, to grant you the grace never to go back to sin anymore and make up your mind never to go back to sin anymore. God bless you.

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This answer would be a lot better if you could add references showing that this is a common understanding, and who teaches/believes it. Remember that "I believe it means..." isn't an acceptable answer, since this site isn't about personal interpretation. See How we are different than other sites? and What makes a good supported answer? –  David Stratton Nov 4 '13 at 1:23
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So, as a pastor and a guy who generally knows "the Bible's conclusion" pretty well, could I suggest that you remember that you are mortal? As James says, not many of you should presume to be called teachers. People are able to misinterpret Scripture all the time - and hence to presume that your interpretation is obviously the Bible's is a dicey proposition at best. The heart is deceitful and wicked - who can know it? Indeed, take heed lest ye fall - but rather humble thyself in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up. –  Affable Geek Nov 5 '13 at 14:55

"By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight, for by the law is the only righteousness God will accept is the perfect righteousness of Christ”.

All you have to do is receive it by inviting Jesus into your life, into your inner man. What has God done to attract us to His plan for our salvation? He sent His Son to live a perfect life as an example for us.

It has for its goal the glory of God and of Christ, and makes a clear distinction before God acquired who Christ is righteous in His sight because of both the imputation of his sin to the imputation of Christ's perfect obedience to him, on which ground he is.

John 6:41-60 (Phi) At this, the Jews started grumbling at him. “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose parents we know? How can he now say that 'I have come down from Heaven'?"... Jesus answered and said, "I myself am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate manna in the desert, AND THEY DIED! The bread which I give you is my own body, and I shall give it for the life of the world." This led to a fierce argument among the Jews, some of them saying, "How can this man give us his body to eat?" So Jesus said to them, "Unless you do eat the body of the Son of Man and drink his blood, I assure you that you are not really living at all. The man who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up when the last day comes. For my body is real food, and my blood is real drink." ...Many of his disciples heard him say these things and commented, "This is a hard teaching indeed; who could accept that?"

There is one condition that God has put upon His offer to justify you. And that is that you have complete faith in the sufficiency of what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for you. Justification in God's sight is received by us on the basis of faith alone in Christ alone.

As Romans 3:26 says,

"that he (God) might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus."

And again in Romans 4:5,

"But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness."

Having faith in someone is the issue of placing your complete trust, reliance, or confidence in him; depending solely upon him and his ability to do for you what you cannot do for yourself. And this is just what placing your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ means. This is what "believing in Jesus" means. You depend upon His death payment for your sins as your only means of acceptance with God, and not upon any of your own works.

When anyone does this, then God counts his faith for righteousness, just as His gospel declares. God freely forgives him his sins and gives unto him the perfect righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. And at that moment he is justified unto eternal life with God. Have you received God's gift of perfect righteousness and eternal life? Are you perfectly righteous in God's sight? If you have never settled this issue, we urge you to settle the matter right now. And you can.

Right now and right where you are, "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." God can look upon your heart and He can see your faith. And when He sees it, He will do exactly what He says He will do — He will count your faith for righteousness. If you have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ as your all-sufficient Savior, then the following is now true of you:

1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man's free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man's merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit. Filial adoption, in making us partakers by grace in the divine nature, can bestow true merit on us as a result of God's gratuitous justice. This is our right by grace, the full right of love, making us "co-heirs" with Christ and worthy of obtaining "the promised inheritance of eternal life. “The merits of our good works are gifts of the divine goodness. "Grace has gone before us; now we are given what is due. . . . Our merits are God's gifts."

Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God's wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.

When God sees us believers, he sees us in Christ, covered under the blood and cloaked in righteousness. He does not see sin in our lives, he only sees righteousness. When it comes to dealing with other believers we should see them as Christ sees them, perfect and cloaked in righteousness. We are not here to judge anyone as Jesus took all our judgments upon himself on the cross. We should only display love to others because God first loved us. No one is perfect, even yourself. When it comes to other believers we should only see the God in them, see them as God’s righteousness. No matter how someone lives their life or acts, we are called to love them with the love of the Lord. If you view someone in their shortcomings, you are viewing them from your sin consciousness, so you would not love them from the fullness of God’s love. Love will not be made perfect in you.

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Welcome to C.SE. When you get the chance, please check out our tour and specifically How we are different than other sites. I love the message, and agree with what you say, but (and you knew there was a but) this doesn't seem to really address the question. I think it can, really easily, by explictly stating the Niehbauer hypothesis on this - but you need to do so. –  Affable Geek Nov 5 '13 at 14:47

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